Lutein as protective agent against neonatal oxidative stress

Giuseppe Buonocore, Monica Tei, Serafina Perrone


Free radicals (FR) are important for a correct development of neonatal organs and tissues. However, newborn and fetus have profoundly impaired antioxidant system. In these subjects, oxidative stress (OS) may be detrimental by activating deleterious cellular processes. Decreasing FR and restoring oxidative imbalance certainly appear to be beneficial in perinatal period. Among the therapeutic antioxidant approaches in newborns, lutein, a compound belonging to the xanthophyll family of carotenoids, is one of the emerging strategies. Humans cannot synthesize lutein, hence the intake primarily depends on diet. In the neonatal period, fresh, non-processed human milk is the main dietary source of lutein, while infant formula is lacking it. Lutein has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Lutein supplementation in human newborns during the first days of life has been demonstrated to decrease plasma biomarkers of OS and increase antioxidant capacities. Numerous experimental study have demonstrated that lutein effectively neutralizes oxidants and modulates inflammatory processes, showing particular protective effects on macula and photoreceptors against phototoxicity and oxidative injury. Only few clinical studies evaluated the effectiveness of lutein in reducing preterm and term infant morbidity, reporting no definitive results. The challenge for the future is to better clarify the timing, the optimal dose and the duration of lutein intervention in perinatal period and to verify its impact on infants’ health.


Proceedings of the 10th International Workshop on Neonatology · Cagliari (Italy) · October 22nd-25th, 2014 · The last ten years, the next ten years in Neonatology

Guest Editors: Vassilios Fanos, Michele Mussap, Gavino Faa, Apostolos Papageorgiou


lutein; oxidative stress; antioxidant; free radicals; inflammation; newborn infant

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